Winter is fast approaching, and with it comes icy and dangerous sidewalks. Slip and fall accidents injure millions of people every year, and many of them occur on poorly maintained or hazardous sidewalks.
So who's responsible for keeping sidewalks safe? And what can you do if you're injured on a sidewalk?
Who Is Responsible for Sidewalk Maintenance?
Under the legal theory of "premises liability," property owners are responsible for maintaining a reasonably safe environment and can be held liable for accidents and injuries that occur on their property. Private citizens, businesses, and the government are all responsible for the safety of public access to their property, including sidewalks.
What Must Property Owners Do to Avoid a Sidewalk Accident?
Residential property owners must take reasonable steps to keep the property safe, and this can extend to occupants of rental properties. Businesses must also take reasonable care for the safety of customers and clients, also called invitees. Government liability for sidewalk injuries may be limited by special laws providing for governmental immunity regarding injury claims.
What About Snow and Ice Removal?
Some jurisdictions have ordinances that require property owners to clear ice and snow from public sidewalks; others impose no legal duty for snow removal; and others say snow and ice must be removed within a reasonable time. In either case, property owners that are negligent in clearing ice and snow off of their sidewalks can be liable if someone falls and is injured.
Who Can Be Sued for Sidewalk Injuries?
Businesses and property owners can be sued under negligence and premises liability theories. Premises liability claims against the government, on the other hand, are a little different. Government entities have traditionally enjoyed sovereign immunity when it comes to injury claims. However, some statutes have been passed that allow for injury lawsuits, provided they meet certain conditions. Generally, you must provide the government with notice, and the ability to respond to your claim, before you can file an injury lawsuit in court.
Sidewalk injury lawsuits, especially against government entities, can be complicated. If you've been injured on a sidewalk, you may want to talk to an experienced injury attorney about your claim.